Multiple Vancouver apartments in the West End

New grants will increase support and security for renters

February 26 2020 –

Today, Council approved $625,000 in grants to support the vital work of non-profit organizations that serve and advocate for renters across the city. 

The 15 recipients deliver an array of initiatives focused on supporting renters, including workshops educating them on their rights, additional legal support for renters at dispute resolution hearings and services to increase housing security. 

“Over 50% of Vancouver households rent their homes and many of them face significant challenges when they find themselves at risk of displacement due to redevelopment, renovations, or sale of their buildings,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. 

“Non-profit renter-serving and advocacy organizations are renters’ first line of defense, and we are pleased these grants will provide funding for initiatives and programming focused on renters in need, including low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, people who identify as Indigenous, and youth exiting care”

The grants are the first to be provided through the new Renter Services Program approved by Council in June 2019 to help renters better understand and pursue their rights and secure and stabilize their housing. The majority of the funding for the grants is from the Empty Homes Tax (EHT) revenues.

Funding recipients

One of the funding recipients is Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) who is set to receive $24,182 to support its project “How to Survive a Housing Crisis”, which will provide education and one-on-one support for women and girls experiencing gender-based violence. Speaking about the grant, Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services, “For the women who access our services they discover that the shelters are full, waitlists are too long and market rents are too high. Since housing is one of the main reasons women don’t leave abusive relationships, this funding from the City of Vancouver will make it possible for BWSS to dedicate staff to support and advocate; literally a game changer for hundreds of women each year.” 

Yarrow Intergenerational Society will receive $17,134 to address service gaps faced by low-income Chinese senior renters in the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona. Chanel Ly, Coordinator at Yarrow Intergenerational Society described the impact the funding will have: “The Renters Services Grant will allow us to support low-income Chinese seniors in precarious housing situations. We can help immigrant seniors overcome language and cultural barriers to access social housing and other housing support services."

Outcomes for renters

The grants aim to influence three primary outcomes for renters:

Understanding Rights

Funding that provides enhanced opportunities for Vancouver renters to understand their rights and improve and stabilize their rental housing

Example: Vancouver Tenants Union ($40,000) – The grant will allow VTU to rapidly expand renters’ access to information about their rights, create local entry points to legal advocacy, and develop support to stop evictions, achieve maintenance standards and prevent homelessness.

Pursuing Rights

Funding that provides increased legal advice, assistance and representation for Vancouver renters to pursue their legal rights 

Example: Access Pro Bono ($40,000) – This project will provide expert legal assistance and representation to low and modest-income Vancouver renters confronting tenancy-threatening legal problems in and out of Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) hearings and BC Supreme Court. 

Securing Housing

Funding that provides services to renters to support them in maintaining their tenancies or finding adequate rehousing options. 

Example: West End Seniors Network ($50,000) – This grant will support the implementation of an innovative roommate pairing service that will connect older adults in underutilized homes with renters in need of affordable housing.

The grants are the first of several initiatives to protect renters that the City is rolling out. Other initiatives include a renter enquiry phone line, a tenant relocation specialist training program and a proposed renter centre where renters can access education, legal advocacy and other supports in one place.